Who doesn’t love to sing? Belting out your favorite tunes in the shower or while driving can bring a smile to anyone’s face — even if it’s just your own.
The Hudson Valley Youth Chorale (HVYC) and its Artistic Executive Director, Mathew Camara, provide children grades 3 to 12 a place to supplement their music education in a safe, non-competitive, musical environment.
Barbara Pickhardt founded the program in 1995 in association with Holy Cross Episcopal Church, at which time the pastor decided to have a children’s chorus as an outreach ministry. The group then started with a handful of children who responded to an advertisement, and has continued since.
Camara has been involved with the Hudson Valley Youth Chorale as a parent since his own children were old enough to join. After hearing about the previous director’s retirement, he applied, and has since enjoyed sharing performances with his children.
Children who join have an informal audition to get to know other members and to gather more information about each child’s voice. There is a yearly membership fee of $100, however Camara has never turned a child away due to their financial situation. Scholarships are available for those in need.
“HVYC was founded to provide all children with positive musical experiences, and the program continues because we provide opportunities for all children who love to sing and strive to empower our young singers to change the world through music,” says Camara.
Camara has an extensive background in music including earning a Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Alaska and a Masters in Music Education at the College of St. Rose. Camara also teaches music in the Kingston City School District and co-directs the Mid-Hudson Women’s Chorus.
From his experiences in both Alaska and New York, he has learned to honor other cultures, listen, and be flexible, but says it is ultimately the children that inspire him no matter where he goes.
The program, according to Camara, allows children to understand their neighbors both across the street and around the world by singing in a variety of languages and musical styles. Even more, Camara hopes children gain confidence through their experiences with the program, which supplements any musical education they receive in school and remain with them for a lifetime.
“It is impossible to have too many opportunities to make music with others,” says Camara.
Though it may be true that the children gain much from HVYC, Camara has also gained just as much by being part of the program. The year he began as director, his grandfather had passed away. He credits HVYC for getting him through the difficult period lifting him up when he needed it most.
“To say that the kids who sing in HVYC are special to me is an understatement,” says Camara. “I am proud to watch them grow into such confident and talented young adults with incredibly bright futures ahead of them.”
While Camara can’t pinpoint one favorite performance, he has experienced many amazing moments with HVYC. Among these are opening for the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, singing carols at Kingston City Hall, and walking through the snow to sing at Kingston Hospital and Mr. Deluca’s Laundromat.
Community service performances are an important part of what the program does. According to Camara, it’s the HVYC’s way of giving back to the community while and serving as an outreach to grow the group.
“We believe that music has the power to change the world,” says Camara.